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Old Oct 29 2006, 07:10 PM   #41
Shalyn
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Chapter Forty

* * * * *

Part Three - Chapter 40

The five turns that had seemed so far away when she was a newly graduated weyrling passed all too quick. Today was the first day of the Seventh Pass, and Thread was due to Fall over Fort Hold. Traditionally, all Weyrs flew together for the first six Falls - one over each Weyr's territory. Amassing all Weyrs together cut down on casualties and allowed the riders to get a handle on real Threadfighting. After six Falls, it was assumed that the dragonriders knew what they were doing and could handle the rest of the Pass on their own.

This didn't mean that Weyrs wouldn't help others - after all, four of the six Weyrs suffered cold winters so Thread did not fall as much. Igen and Ista did not share that fate, so the four snowbound Weyrs would send a wing periodically to the two hot climate Weyrs. This gave the Igen and Ista Weyrfolk some respite, and kept the 'riders from the rest of the Weyrs well honed.

Currently, this was not a problem since Thread had yet to fall. But it was going to fall in less than two hours, and Kailisu was nervous. Anticipation and fear formed a hard ball in her belly, and she paced Rhavishath's length out of nervousness.

Thread falls soon. I can feel it, Rhavishath noted, looking south and east towards Fort Hold. This caused another lurch in Kailisu's stomach, and she feared she would lose her breakfast. They had trained daily for this life-changing event, but was she ready? Would she ever be ready?

You'll be fine. Once we are fighting Thread, you'll forget your fears, Rhavishath consoled her rider. Orovith's rider comes.

Kailisu turned to greet Mareena. While they hadn't become fast friends in the preceding Turns, neither were they erstwhile enemies. Mareena had changed over the Turns, and even she admitted it was for the better. "Good Fall, Mareena," Kailisu said, her voice breaking at the end of her greeting. Mareena gave Kailisu something between a grimace and a grin.

"Nervous? I know I am." Orovith was taking her place slightly ahead and to the right of Rhavishath.

Nodding, Kailisu smiled weakly. "I'm afraid my flamethrower will clog, or that I'll hit Rhavishath on the neck with it, or my straps will break, or . . . "

"Whoa! Don't make me any more jittery than I already am." Mareena held up her hand to ward off Kailisu's verbal onset. "I've thought of all that, along with being flamed by one of the other queenriders flying with us, or hitting my head on the flamethrower, or any number of horrible mistakes."

Kailisu laughed at Mareena's words. "Do you know I hit myself on the head with that flamethrower tank the first day I used it? Those things are heavy!"

"I think we all did. Sometimes I think I still have that lump, where it hit me." Mareena grinned, then moved forward to take Kailisu's hands in hers. "Here's hoping we both come back in one piece."

Squeezing Mareena's hands with her own, Kailisu nodded. "Here's hoping."

Gorth says it's time to go to Fort. Breylith is ready.

The two youngest weyrwoman embraced, then mounted their dragons. For the first six Falls, all the queens of Pern would fly together with no other dragons in between them. Once each Weyr started fighting their own Falls other dragons, mostly lightly injured and Weyrlings, would be take their places between the four queens of Telgar Weyr.

Weyrleader J'ten gave the signal, and one Wing after another rose. The queen's Wing rose last, because they would be flying the lowest and also to ensure the rest of the dragonriders were having no trouble. That was another one of the jobs that wasn't mentioned in the books - the queen's Wing was the last checkpoint. If a previously injured dragon had trouble on the uplift, the queens would know it. If a rider couldn't keep his seat due to discomfort from a malady, the queens would know it. Their sharp eyes saw everything, and a queen dragon's mind was quicker than that of any other colors. They could process what they saw in a third of the time it took a bronze. With the added benefit of having trained riders whose duties took them to the Infirmary more often than not, there wasn't much which passed a gold's scrutiny.

When all the Wings were hovering in position above the Weyr, J'ten and Gorth gave the signal to go between, and like an adequately oiled machine, the Wings disappeared and reappeared over Fort Weyr. There were some dragons who arrived before the rest, and quite a few stragglers, Kailisu being one.

Gorth says J'ten isn't happy. We didn't look good for Fort, Rhavishath said in a chagrined tone.

It's not like we were the only ones, Kailisu retorted, upset that Rhavishath was being yelled at.

No, but he's chastising everyone who was either too early or too late. We'll be working on that after Fall.

Kailisu sighed. Yes, it looked bad. Yes, they needed to work on it. But . . . well, no 'buts'. There was no excuse for sloppiness.

Exactly his point.

Deciding to let it go, Kailisu looked around her. She had already met all the Weyrwomen and weyrwomen she'd be fighting with - the combined Wings of Pern had drilled for the past sevenday. Another knot formed in her stomach. Today wasn't a drill, it was for real. People could die out here.

We risk our lives to save the planet, Rhavishath quoted, and Kailisu smiled in spite of herself. Trust her dragon to listen in on their lessons, then quote them to her. Once again, she wondered just how long a dragon's memory was. She adjusted her flamethrower tank, and checked her connections once again. The dragons hovered in the air which sort of bothered her - what if they were too tired to fight Thread by the time it started falling?

Nonsense. We can hold this position for hours. Oh, we are to take our positions in the Queen's Wing.

Nonsense? Where did her dragon get a word like nonsense? Well, no matter. Rhavishath glided down to the position assigned to her, between Teki and Kembith of Benden and Nayomi and Zillath of Ista. The three were of an age, and had worked well together during drills so for the next six Falls they would work as a team. Barring any injuries, Faranth forbid. Nodding to the two goldriders, Kailisu once again nervously plucked at her straps. Surreptitiously she noticed the others doing the same. Good, at least she wasn't the only one who was nervous.

The arrival of Haelle, the Fort Weyrwoman presaged the command to go between to Fort Hold, where Thread would commence falling any moment.

* * * * *

Kailisu had no time to think once they transitioned from Fort Weyr to Fort Hold. The Leading Edge started about ten to fifteen minutes after the Wings broke out of between - there was barely enough time for the Wings to hold a roll call and everyone to give their straps one last cursory check. Then - Thread!

At first it seemed like a drill - no Thread made it through the upper Wings, a fact attested to by the hot black dust that filtered down through the ranks. Kailisu realized why they all wore goggles now - not because of wind or possible insects. The Thread dust was worse than either of those natural dangers. One small bit hit her cheek and she jumped. It was still warm from the dragon which had charred it above, though not hot enough to burn. She raised a gloved hand to her cheek and rubbed, wondering if it would leave a dark mark.

Zillath says that it's falling faster and stronger now, Rhavishath told her, and Kailisu looked around guiltily. There was no excuse for daydreaming when they could be kill. . . hurt any second now.

Don't worry. I'm watching for both of us.

Shaking the cobwebs out of her head, Kailisu took more note of her surroundings. Visibility seemed lower, and she wondered if the weather was turning. Passing a hand over her goggles, soot wiped off and her vision became clearer again. With the charred Thread falling through the Wings, black dust was coating everything - even though there was a heavy breeze up at these heights. An abrupt move to her left caused Kailisu to jerk around just in time to see Marla from Fort flaming a clump of something.

Thread.

Of course she knew it was Thread, but this was the first real-life Thread she'd ever seen! A cheer went up from Marla's companions and Rhavishath relayed the incident to her. This was the first Thread charred on the first Threadfall from the Queen's Wing. Kailisu shook her head. So this was an historic occasion?

Yes. Every dragon/rider pair who was the first to char Thread in their wings will get a medal. This will happen for each of the six Weyrs we all Fly over.

Had she missed that memo?

No. No one knew until each Wing had a first to char.

Ah. To make it fair and totally random - at least for the first Fall. During the few seconds of conversation with Rhavishath, several other flamethrowers went off, then it was her turn.

THREAD! A clump came sifting down right in front of hers and Rhavishath's nose. Fascinated, she stared at the writhing strands that seemed to have a life of their own - reaching out to the dragon/human pair. There were several strands knotted together, looking almost like a ball as it came tumbling out of the sky. Kailisu thought it looked like a loosely-woven brain. A loose end fluttered towards her, and seemed to know she was there, for the strand began to stretch.

"Oh, no you don't!" she cried as she aimed her flamethrower and pressed the nozzle. The sight of the clump shrivelling and crumpling, bits flaking away is it was turned into dust was a satisfying sight to the young goldrider.

Teki and Nayomi cheered, and she grinned back at them as she shouldered the flamethrower again, ready to attack the next one.

* * * * *

Fall only lasted a bit under two hours, then they were done, all Wings between-ing to their home Weyrs except for the combined Queen's Wing. They landed in various parts of the Fall zone to check for burrows, though it was doubtful any got through. Kailisu didn't expect the first six Falls to produce any major problems - those would begin once each Weyr began flying their own territory solo.

Holders left the security of their holds to help search for Thread burrows also. Being in a position to hear some of the conversation between holders, she was surprised to find that none of them resented the fact that one or two clumps could have breached the supposedly upper air defense of the dragons. When she gathered up the courage to ask weyrwoman Loryan about it, the goldrider laughed good-naturedly, but gave Kailisu an odd look.

"What kind of question is that, Kailisu? The holders have records, just like we do. They know, just from reading about last Fall that some thread gets through the various levels of Wings. But they're happy that most of the Thread is seared in the air." At first, it seemed like the weyrwoman second was going to let it go at that, turning to go look amongst some bushes, but then she turned back around.

"Kailisu, I've always thought you were a smart person, but I don't understand how you don't know some things that are basic Harper training. Did your Hold not have a proper Harper?"

"Uh . . . ," Kailisu was momentarily struck dumb. She didn't know what to say, so instead just stared at Loryan, panicked.

Loryan just shook her head sadly. "It doesn't matter now anyway, does it? Kailisu, if you have any more questions just ask me."

Kailisu nodded mutely, then following Loryan's lead went back to scanning for Threadspore.

She had just reached the end of the grid she had been assigned, when Rhavishath informed her it was time to go back to the Weyr - the area was clean of Thread. Just as she heard the news, a cheer went up from the rest of the goldriders so she added her voice to theirs. Just in case, she gave one last scan to her part of the grid, then beckoned Rhavishath over to mount. Once strapped in, the queens rose in their Wing formation, then went between to their home Weyrs.

When she arrived at the Weyr, she saw the lake was full of dragons bathing and splashing around, and realized that a bath would feel nice. "Do you want to go to the lake, Rhavi?" she asked, knowing what the answer would be.

I'd love to wash the dust off, Rhavishath answered. The moment Kailisu took the last bit of harness off, her dragon was gone, gliding towards the lake. Kailisu watched through Rhavishath's eyes as she plunged straight down the center, into the deepest part and laughed. She allowed herself to feel the warm waters of the lake against her skin, then slowly withdrew her mind from that much intimacy with her dragon. Her own bath would feel just as good, so she headed into her weyr to take a bath. She quickly washed up, dressed, and followed her ears - where the sounds of raucous rowdiness wafted down the halls. This alone should have told her it would be loud in there, but she didn't realize how loud until she turned the last corner and entered via one of the inner doors.

She was practically blasted backwards from the noise. Entering the Dining Hall was like . . . words left her. It was just as noisy as the Sadie Hawkins Dance she attended a lifetime ago, but not from the same things. Yes, the Harpers were putting on a great show but there were no amplifiers. Then she grinned wryly - there were also no noise-deafening ceiling tiles. The music mixed with the talking and laughing going on at each table, and echoed off the walls, rebounding as needed. Kailisu blinked, then her face split into a wide grin. It was beautiful, seeing everyone joking together. The First Fall of the Fourth Pass had been a success!
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Old Oct 29 2006, 07:12 PM   #42
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Chapter Forty-One
* * * * *

The subsequent five Falls went just as smooth as the First Fall, and then the Weyrs were on their own. Thread was only falling about two to three times a month, but Weyrleader J'ten had all the Wings practicing daily. Each of the thirteen Wings would practice solo, then they would all get together mid-afternoon to practice as a full Weyr. As the Weyrleader said, "There's no such thing as too much practice!".

Kailisu still didn't see the use of the queens flying Fall - they could do so much more good on the ground - either in the Infirmary or heading up the Ground Crews. She was still slightly wary of Mareena - afraid the other goldrider would still stab her in the back when she wasn't looking, so she decided to talk to Loryan instead.

The older goldrider was in her weyr oiling some dry patches Loth had developed over the past few days. Loryan looked up and grinned at Kailisu. "A dry hide can lead to a cracked hide, which can be fatal to a dragon going between," she said, ad-libbing the Weyrlingmaster. "Good morning, Kailisu - Loth tells me you have some questions about flying Thread?"

"Can't do anything without a dragon tattling on us, can we?" Kailisu laughed as she grabbed a towel and dipped it in the oil, dabbing at a dry spot on Loth that Loryan hadn't gotten to yet. Since she had already oiled Rhavishath's dry spots this morning, the younger gold didn't make any protests about her helping with Loryan. After five Turns, Rhavishath had lost some of her jealousy in Kailisu taking interest in other dragons, though none dared to talk to Kailisu alone without the pale gold's permission.

"No, one of the many handicaps to Impressing a dragon," Loryan answered as she dabbed another spot on Loth's dark hide. Loth raised her head and swung it around to give Loryan a hurt look.

Since when am I a handicap? she asked, allowing Kailisu to hear her also. Loryan just laughed, giving Loth an affectionate pat on the shoulder. Kailisu grinned knowing Rhavishath would have acted the same way.

"I'm just kidding sweetie," Loryan said, then wiped her hands on a clean towel and turned to Kailisu. "So what did you want to talk about?" she asked as she sat on the floor and leaned against her gold. Kailisu followed suit, sitting across from her in a cross-legged position since she didn't have a dragon to lean against.

"Why do we fly Fall? The queens, I mean. There are only four of us, can't we make a difference elsewhere - like the Infirmary, or with the ground crews?" Straight to the point. Yet - why hadn't she asked this question before? Maybe because she felt like it was a stupid question. Everyone else seemed to think it was normal, and she even got that impression from the other Weyrs when she worked with Teki and Nayomi.

Loryan raised her eyebrows and looked at Kailisu, a half-smile on her lips. "Image," she finally stated. "To set an example. We can't sit here at the Weyr all safe and cozy, and expect our people to go out and risk their lives." She said this as if she were reciting what she had been told, and Kailisu suddenly realized that all goldriders asked this question, but in private like she was doing.

"But without us, the Weyr would fall," she argued. "There are four queens right now. We're what is producing the fighting population of the Weyr. If even one of us were to . . . to . . . to die in Threadfall, that would mean at least 200 less dragons until another queen is mature - and that's only if the next queen who rises lays a gold egg!" Kailisu's voice had risen in volume and pitch during her expostulation.

"We do lead the ground crews after each Fall," Loryan said calmly. "Plus, we'll probably have more and worse injuries as we move deeper into the Pass, which will mean needing queens to help keep dragons quiet - either because they're injured or because their rider is. This means that not all of us will be needed during Threadfall." While she spoke with confidence, Loryan was frowning slightly as if she wasn't sure she believed what she was saying. Then she shrugged. "Either way, it's how things are done now and I'm not going to bring it up to Weyrwoman Rhanda or Weyrleader J'ten." Her tone told Kailisu that she was welcome to bring the subject up to the Weyrleaders but leave Loryan out of it.

Kailisu rose. "Thank you, Loryan. I understand now, and it was silly of me to ask about it. We'll probably just fight Thread until we're in full fighting mode, then we'll go on to other duties." She wasn't sure if she believed that, but it made more sense than to have the most valuable dragons in the Weyr out in danger. Especially since their flamethrowers didn't flame quite as well as a fire-breathing dragon did.

Rising from her cozy spot against Loth's shoulder, Loryan smiled in relief. "I'm sure of it too. Meanwhile, we'll just be careful!"

* * * * *
And careful they were during the first solo Fall by Telgar. Kailisu approached that Fall with the same trepidation she had approached The First Fall of the Fourth Pass, and came out of it with more confidence than ever. She thought the rest of the Weyr felt the same, and the celebration that night was almost as lively as the first one.

Each subsequent Fall brought its own share of ups and downs, with daring saves and painful injuries. The fourth Fall brought Telgar Weyr's first death by Thread. The Weyr couldn't mourn while in the sky, but they did once aground, and that night's celebration was sober with a slight air of desperation added. J'ten gave a speech that night, and when he was done there wasn't a dry eye in the house. But that day's death finally brought the harsh reality of Thread home to everyone. Previously it was a job, something they did, and in some cases it was cause for gambling. Today, after P'dron and his brown Isnath went between forever, the meaning of being a dragonrider was changed for everyone. That evening was a short one.

For the next few days Weyrlife was a bit more subdued, but eventually life returned to the status-quo. J'ten increased Wing practice times, and when practice ended two days before the next fall with no dye marks on any dragon in the Weyr, confidence was restored. The Weyr approached the next Threadfall with confidence, enthusiasm and even a bit of impatience.

Kailisu strapped herself in, shifting the tank of the flamethrower into a more comfortable position. This sharding thing has not gotten easier to use over time, she thought. It would be so much easier if the queens could flame, too.

We think so too, Rhavishath offered, a bit enviously. Why should the rest of the dragons have all the fun?

Yeah. Why should they?
Kailisu almost laughed at her dragon's thoughts. They went through this every Fall, and every Fall they dealt with it. Gold dragons did not flame. Yet this ritual did bring home one more reality to Kailisu - if the queens weren't allowed to fight Thread, they would not be happy.

Breylith and Gorth are about ready, Rhavishath informed her, breaking her out of her reverie. Crom awaits us.

"You know what to do,
" Kailisu said, putting to bed yet another fallacy from those books of long ago. Dragons could jump between from point A to point B without needing a human's intervention. The only time they really needed a human was if they or their human were panicked or hurt. Most of the time it was best to let them between on instinct instead of with sub-par images.

Rhavishath did indeed know what to do, and the transition from Telgar Weyr to Crom Hold was flawless. Gorth says J'ten is happy.

A happy J'ten was a happy Weyr, and a happy Weyr fought better than a dispirited Weyr. Rhavishath hovered in the Queen's Wing, and they waited until the call came that Thread was falling!

With only four queens, the rest of the wing was made up of greens and blues, which added to Kailisu's good mood. The smaller dragons were quick, darting around to catch the clumps of Thread which dared defy destruction in the upper wings. The queens didn't have much flaming to do with their help, but that didn't stop the goldriders from scanning the Flight.

There! Rhavishath said, heading towards a larger-than-normal tangle. Kailisu readied her flamethrower and let loose with a blast of fire. She felt a certain satisfaction watching the large knot grow smaller, breaking apart into black, charred pieces as she flamed it.

"There!" she cried, bringing the flamethrower's hose back into ready position. There wasn't much time to think though, as another clump fell through, and she charred it. What's happening up above? she asked her dragon, worried that there was something wrong with the upper Wings.

Wind current changed, caught a few off guard. They should be fine now, the pale gold answered.

Good. Wouldn't want to lose anyone so soon after . . .

Kailisu! Look out!
The call came from Adexith where he and R'mez were flying in the wing above hers.

Kailisu flinched and Rhavishath backwinged - exactly the wrong thing to do as it brought Kailisu's back into contact with a medium sized tangle of Thread. The deadly spores immediately began to burrow into both Kailisu's and Rhavishath's backs.

Between! Rhavishath, go between! Kailisu wasn't sure if the order came from herself, Adexith or Breylith but Rhavishath obeyed whoever's order it was and went into the blessedly frigid temperature of between. Kailisu was crying, from the pain in her back and the pain she could feel in Rhavishath's back.

[i]Home, Rhavi. I want to go home,[i] she sobbed and gave Rhavishath a picture of home. Going between never seemed to last so long.
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Old Oct 29 2006, 07:14 PM   #43
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Chapter Forty-Two

* * * * *

Kailisu woke to the sensation of falling. Rhavi? Rhavishath? RHAVI! Wake up!

Slowly Kailisu felt the draconian mind become coherent, and Rhavishath tiredly spread her wings to break her fall into a glide. It was barely enough before they skittered through some trees, coming to a complete stop in a clearing on the ground. The girl and the gold both fell into a semi-conscious haze, one which Kailisu broke sooner than her dragon companion.

Trees?

What trees?

Telgar Weyr doesn't have trees!


Slowly Kailisu lifted her head to look weakly around her. This place looked famili . . . .

The sound of sirens broke the relative silence. "****!" Kailisu said, then blacked out.

* * * * *

"How did it happen for you?" Kailisu asked R'mez one night several Turns back, as they were sharing a skin of Telgar blush.

"I was on night duty at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico," R'mez gave Justin another skritch on his headknob and Kailisu's blue leaned into his hand, shamelessly wanting more. Smiling, R'mez accommodated him as he continued. "I thought I saw something - hell, I thought I saw a UFO. But to be sure, I called it in over the radio - for all I know, it could have been a Mid-Eastern spy plane. I was told to wait, which I did."

R'mez had become rough with Justin, who nipped him on the hand, squawked, then went
between. The bronzerider looked at the empty spot that used to be Justin bemusedly. "As I waited, I became light-headed and must have passed out. I woke up here."

Kailisu sipped from the mug she was using, furrowing her brows. "You know - we're from two different times, yet the years don't match. According to the books, this should be about 3,000 years in the future. Yet we're here - we didn't die of asphyxiation when we came here - and we should have. Hell, R'mez, in Dragonflight Lessa almost died going back 400 Turns. What about us?"

R'mez stared into his mug, swirling the pink wine as if he were fathoming its depths. Which, perhaps he was. He lifted his head to look at Kailisu, and shook his head. "I don't know. I've talked about this with Journeyman Harper Jinna, and I still don't know. She was from New York - the city. September 2001. She came here when the Twin Towers were hit.

"Nine-one-one," Kailisu breathed.

R'mez nodded. "She's happy to be here, though she exported when she was thirteen, and is now twenty. She doesn't have many more Turns to Stand, yet I feel she is more than ready to Impress." He waved his hand. "Jinna is neither here nor there now, but I mention her because we came up with a theory."

Kailisu cocked her head in interest, ready to hear what R'mez had to say.

"What if every time an author writes a book, or a series it creates an alternate reality. Or maybe it's not every author, but it is the ones that people read over and over again, and wish the writings were real."

"Alternate universe." Kailisu nodded knowingly. "I've read a few books that dealt with that. Something about each universe is a page, like a millimeter thick and they lie on top of each other."

R'mez nodded. "Exactly. That's probably where I got the idea, too. But if that were the case, the way to the alternate universe would be a shorter trip. So, you could go from our Earth to this Pern and spend less time
between than if you went from Pern's ninth Pass to Pern's eighth Pass. Especially if there were a Long Interval included.

The idea had its merits, Kailisu thought. But there were things here that were different than in the books. "But we're in the Fourth Pass right now. There are many females riding greens. In the books, that died out during the Second Pass."

"I know. We have an explanation for that, too." R'mez grinned but didn't offer any more explanation, and Kailisu realized that he wanted her to come up with the same reasoning he and Jinna had. She took another sip of wine and leaned back, disturbing Noyance who was sitting on her lap. Instead of
betweening like her 'brother' did, Noyance just glared at Kailisu and re-settled herself. Kailisu snorted - this fire lizard sure acted like some she'd seen in fanon.

That's when she got it. Anne had created Pern out of her imagination, but she had so many fans of the series that it was hard to keep Anne's Pern straight from Fan's Pern. Kailisu looked at R'mez triumphantly. "Either there are many different alternate universes that Pern is in and I'm in any one of those, or this universe is a blending of all things logical from canon and fanon."

"Exactly, grasshopper." R'mez and Kailisu chuckled over the classic nickname.


* * * * *
The red Stratus came to a stop on the tiny side-trail. Derek Zimmerman, Special Agent for the Department of Research for Anomalous Genetic OrgaNisms stepped out of his car, flashlight in hand. The sirens were getting closer but he was secure in the knowledge that his immediate supervisor, Matt Cooper, would keep the local authorities from getting too close to this Genetic OrgaNism.

This was the first one he'd been privy to that had landed in such a tight area. Though there was a clearing here, getting it out through the trees was not going to be easy. Now if only . . . shining the light around, he noticed he was in luck. There was a small path through these trees going in the direction of the - disturbance. He breathed easier. Last time he was in the woods for something he ended up with a nasty case of poison ivy. Carefully making his way through the area of woods he stopped when he came into the small clearing - a clearing made bigger by the Genetic OrgaNism that crushed anything in its way during its fall. He sighed - this one was a magnificent specimen. It was too bad they were always dead when he got to them.

Shining his flashlight on the OrgaNism brought out delicate pale gold mottlings - a far different color than that dark green he'd seen last time. This one was almost twice the size of the last one, and he couldn't help but think that there was something about the color that made it look more important. He continued with his circuit, shining the light up and down the hide of the creature noting the many scratches and gouges caused by its fall through the trees. These injuries were oozing greenish blood but most seemed to be minor and the blood was already coagulating. This creature had landed intact - most of the time they were just a mangled mess.

Up near the top of its back was an injury that didn't look to be caused by the trees. Green blood oozed out of an expanse of muscle tissue. If he didn't know better, he would consider acid had been poured on the hide. Just for that he was glad the creature - well, dragon - was dead. The Department called these OrgaNisms "dragons", after their own acronym. Or, Derek smiled at the thought, the Department created its name so it could be called DRAGON.

As he walked one of the wings moved and he jumped, then laughed at himself. The OrgaNism was just settling. But when he got to the head he was treated to another surprise. The multi-faceted eyes that should be cloudy in death were clear, intelligent, and blinking. The dragon raised its head about six inches off the ground, then shifted, showing Derek more of its injured back.

And something else.

"Rhavishath? Eryoo hokey?" The voice sounded as if it were coming from on top of the dragon. The rider was alive as well? This was a double first - a dragon and its humanoid rider survive the fall - something that had never happened before. Usually by the time the Special Agents of DRAGON got to them they were so pulverized that separating the two entities was nigh unto impossible.

"Hello?" he called towards the vicinity of the voice. The dragon's head moved to look at him, but it seemed too weak to do anything more.

"'Lo? Huzzair?" The voice was definitely female, and he saw movement by the dragon's injury. Apparently she did too. "Oh, Rhavishath, eyezzo surrey! Eye goat nummeed furria! Hay yoo, chinette lye top air."

Derek paused, puzzled. Her words made no sense but he had a niggling feeling that they would. He shined the light up to see her better, and she smiled and nodded. "Tank oo."

He couldn't tell much about the girl because she was wearing what looked like a leather fighter helmet from the 1930's, a primitive leather coat and leather pants - or maybe chaps - to match the coat. Or jacket. It looked to be lined with fur, but he wouldn't be able to tell until she came down from there. Currently, she had a large jar open and was spreading something on the creature's raw hide. A stray breeze wafted a pungent, antiseptic odor down to him and he sneezed.

"Geznite," the girl said. Without warning, the dragon shifted position carefully again and lifted its foreleg up. The girl stiffly stepped on it, holding on to a leather harness, then jumped down, wincing in pain. The massive head swung around and the dragon made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a croon. Furrowing her brows, the girl reached around to her back, then widened her eyes as she brought her bloody hand forward. Even with the helmet covering most of her face Derek could see her skin go white and her eyes started to roll up into her head. Derek was ready to catch her when the dragon made a loud noise, causing the girl to come back to her senses. She wobbled and the agent reached out to steady her. Nodding her gratitude, she took off the leather jacket.

Derek was horrified to see the back was non-existent. Oh, the jacket used to have a back, but the jagged, choppy edges spoke of the same medium that had eaten through the dragon's skin. "Hey, let me look at you," he said, reaching out to turn her around.

The girl hesitated a moment, then turned, showing Derek the bloody mess that was her back. Luckily, whatever acid or other substance that had landed on her had eaten through the jacket and her shirt first, and only just drew blood on the skin. Granted, it was about the size of a sheet of copier paper, but it could have been worse. He didn't notice the girl trying to get his attention until the dragon's wing reached out and poked him.

"Nummeed. Putton skoar."

"What?"

"Puthis onskoar, yaddim glow."

"I'm sorry, I don't understand you." Derek was trying, but whatever dialect she spoke he didn't understand.

The girl took off her helmet and glared at him. She shoved the large jar she had brought with her at Derek, who took it in surprise. She took the remnants of her shirt off, revealing full breasts without the added modesty of a brassiere. Her whole body language screaming outrage at his stupidity, she looked into his eyes and took a deep breath.

"Put this on my back, you dim glow!"
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Old Oct 29 2006, 07:16 PM   #44
Shalyn
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Epilogue

* * * * *

Kylie Sue Martin took stock of the "hotel" she was in. Apparently the Department of Research for Anomalous Genetic OrgaNisms rated high on the plush-o-meter. Her room was more like an apartment, and boasted every luxury imaginable. Satellite TV, satellite radio, a recliner couch, oak tables, tile flooring. The only thing she didn't have was internet, or a way to go home.

How they were able to get her and Rhavishath to their compound without anyone noticing was beyond her understanding. How did they explain the military cargo-plane on Airport Highway? Considering it was large enough to hold a fully matured queen dragon with room to spare – it had to cause some comment. Kylie had been afraid they’d want her to fly there, and that would have been nigh unto impossible with the Threadscore Rhavishath boasted. Instead, Kylie and Rhavishath had been transported in relative style and comfort.

The most surprising thing about the DRAGON compound was the ready belief in her story - of course, how else could they explain the large gold dragon in their backyard, eating any and all livestock they brought in for her? There was also the fact that DRAGON had been around since the early 70's, when the first dragon and rider were found in a mangled heap on a parking lot in downtown Atlanta.

Since then, speculation ran rampant about where these manifestations originated. That Kylie provided the answer only whetted their appetite for more answers.

The sound of a key turning in the lock alerted her to a visitor in this luxurious prison. She smiled as Derek came in, closing the door behind him.

"So, any decisions yet?" she asked, sitting back and folding her hands on the table in front of her.

"They finally decided," Derek answered, taking the chair across from her. "I'm to take you home."

Kylie felt her stomach plummet in disappointment. "Oh. To Toledo?"

"No." Derek leaned forward and looked in her eyes. "To Pern."
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Old Sep 21 2008, 11:21 PM   #45
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Whoa, great story, any more?
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Old Oct 13 2009, 09:42 AM   #46
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Wow! this is very good, is there any more?
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